GI rolls onto grenade, saving 4

Posted: 14 Dec 2006 in Politics

By Brian Bowling
Thursday, December 7, 2006

A Clarion County soldier was killed when he threw himself on a grenade to protect the lives of his fellow soldiers, relatives said Wednesday.

Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis, 19, of Knox, was the gunner in a Humvee patrolling in Baghdad on Monday when someone on a rooftop threw a grenade into the vehicle.

Tom McGinnis, of nearby Paint, said his son’s unit commander told him Ross McGinnis knew he didn’t have time to throw the grenade out of the Humvee.

“He lay down on it on his back, trying to cover it with his body armor,” Tom McGinnis said.

The Army told him four other soldiers in the Humvee suffered minor injuries in the blast.

An Army spokesman said he couldn’t confirm the details of McGinnis’ death until the Army finishes the routine investigation it conducts for any combat casualty.

Rebecca McGinnis said her son drew a soldier in kindergarten when he was supposed to picture what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“Ross decided at a very young age that he wanted to join the Army,” she said.

On his 17th birthday — the first day he was eligible — Ross McGinnis stepped into the recruiting station and joined the Army through the Delayed Enlistment Program, she said.

During his infantry training, the left-handed McGinnis qualified as an expert shooting left-handed and as a sharpshooter — one step below expert — shooting right-handed, she said.

His physical proficiency was no surprise to his parents, who said Ross McGinnis was bright but restless and wasn’t a stellar student.

“He wasn’t academic,” his mother said. “He was hands on.”

Tom McGinnis said his son’s passions – other than the Army – were video games and mountain biking. He later became a car enthusiast while taking automotive technology at the Clarion County Career Center.

“He was always outside, going. He couldn’t sit still,” Tom McGinnis said.

Ross McGinnis graduated from Keystone Junior-Senior High School in 2005. Principal Vicky Walters said the news of McGinnis’ death shocked the small school.

“The teachers who knew him are very distraught,” she said.

Brent Johnson, the automotive instructor at the career center, said McGinnis became an “outstanding student” in his class, participated in the student congress and served as secretary/treasurer for the automotive department.

“Ross was the type of student that made me proud to be a teacher,” Johnson said. “He will be greatly missed.”

The family is still discussing funeral arrangements with the Army.

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